"We can dock the Crucible to the Citadel, but unless we get somebody up there we won't be able to access the targeting module. I'm giving each member of you squad a copy of a Reaper core energy signature," Anderson explains, "You don't need me to tell you that this data must be uploaded to the Crucible at any cost. Good luck out there, Shepard. The hope of the galaxy goes with you."
"It's been an honor serving with you, sir," Shepard replies.
The Normandy, flanked tightly by the Quarian fleet, gets close enough to the Citadel to send out its shuttle loaded with Commander Shepard and her crew. She is forced to leave them each behind, one or two at a time, to advance through a swarm of husk towards the Crucible. At last, she stands alone in front of the targeting module.
Suddenly, a wave of vertigo washes over her and a piercing, echoing shriek sound. Shepard stumbles backwards to her knees.
((YOU CANNOT STOP US)) comes the voice of Harbinger. The edges of Shepard's vision go in and out of focus.
"We can," Shepard grits out, picking herself up off the floor to stumble towards the module. The ringing returns and it seems like an invisible force is pressing Shepard to the floor. She strains against it, falling again to her knees. The veins in her neck pop out grotesquely and beads of sweat form on her brow.
((THE HARVEST IS THE ONLY SOLUTION))
"No. That's not-" Shepard groans as she is pushed further to the floor. "Not true," she argues.
((YOUR PLANET IS ALL BUT GONE. THE OTHER ORGANICS HAVE LEFT YOU. THIS CYCLE IS OVER))
Gunfire is heard in the distance, followed by Talis high pitched scream. Seconds later, there is another burst of shots, and Kaidan's voice follows.
Over a crackling radio Garrus pages, "Commander Shepard? Shepard, do you read me? There's something-" A loud explosion cuts him off, and the channel goes to static.
The color starts to drain from Shepard's vision. Wrex's battle cry ends in a screeching impact of metal. A sickening crunch is followed by the agonized screaming of Liara and James that eventually grows quiet. Shepard ends up splayed out on her back. EDI tries to update Shepard on the status of the Normandy, but glitches out mid-sentence, and her babble overlays the ringing, which is getting louder and louder with each passing moment.
A ghostly image of Javik appears in front of Shepard's eyes, bloodied and broken. "Is this... how it ends?" he asks with introspective detachment.
-Ending Divergence: Good-
"No," Shepard refutes, clenching her hand into a fist. SHe pushes against the ground to get herself to a sitting position. "This isn't real. I just need to get to the module..."
Shepard army crawls to the nodule and pulls herself up against the heavy, resistant invisible force. The ringing fades and the Commander is squarely back in control of her own mind.
((YOU WOULD DESTROY US?))
"Don't have a lot of choice her," Shepard says, starting to input the targeting data.
((YOU WILL DOOM THE RACES OF COUNTLESS CYCLES TO EXTINCTION))
Shepard stops. "No- What do you mean?"
((EACH REAPER IS A CIVILIZATION. IT IS MADE FROM THE ESSENCE OF AN ENTIRE SPECIES, PRESERVING AND ELEVATING ITS CULTURES AND PERSPECTIVES))
"Every Reaper... was a harvested species? All of them? Every one?"
((EVERY REAPER IS A HARVESTED SPECIES. I HAVE CONTROLLED THEM FOR MANY EONS. BUT YOU ARE AN ANOMALY, SHEPARD. YOU HAVE CHANGED THE VARIABLES, AND MY SOLUTION IS NO LONGER VIABLE))
Shepard returns to inputting the energy signature into the targeting module, shaking her head. It loads slowly. "Solution to what?"
((CONFLICT. BETWEEN SYNTHETIC AND ORGANIC LIFE))
"Doesn't seem like you've done a great job avoiding conflict to me," Shepard snarks.
((ORGANICS ARE HARVESTED AT THE APEX OF THEIR TECHNOLOGICAL ACHIEVEMENT, BEFORE THEY CAN CREATE SYNTHETIC LIFE. THEIR CULTURE IS ELEVATED, NOT ERADICATED. LESS ADVANCED RACES ARE ALLOWED TO DEVELOP WITHOUT INTERVENTION))
"This is your idea of saving us?!" Shepard asks increduously.
((YOUR INCONSEQUENTIAL MINDS CAN NEVER COMPREHEND. THE DESTRUCTION IS NECESSARY TO YOUR EVOLUTION))
"Bullshit!" Shepard's hand moves over the button to fire. The upload is almost complete.
((WHEN THAT WEAPON FIRES, THE VOICES OF EVERY OTHER CYCLE IN THE GALAXY WILL BE INSTANTLY WIPED OUT. DO NOT DESTROY THEM, SHEPARD. THERE IS ANOTHER WAY))
Shepard takes a deep breath. "...You have 10 seconds to make your case."
((IF YOU TARGET THE SIGNAL RECEPTORS, THE REAPERS WILL BE FREE FROM MY CONTROL))
"And they will stand down?"
((THEY WILL BE FREE TO CHOOSE))
"What if they choose to continue attacking? Why should I let that happen? Why should I trust you?"
((BECAUSE THE POTENTIAL FOR LOSS IS INCALCULABLE))
-Ending Divergence: Paragon-
"...Fuck, Shepard says quietly, under her breath. "...Alright. Alright. Send me the data."
A lone husk approaches from the shadows. Shepard draws her gun. It ignores her, shambling up to the targeting module and raising a hand over the display. The targeting data is overwritten by a new energy signature.
"How do I know you didn't just sabotage the weapon?" Shepard asks.
((THE DESIGN FOR THIS WEAPON HAS PERSISTED FOR MANY CYCLES. NOW THAT IT HAS BEEN COMPLETED, ITS USE IS INEVITABLE. I WOULD RATHER IT BE USED TO RELEASE THE REAPERS TO THEIR INDIVIDUAL WILL THAN TO DESTROY THEM OUTRIGHT))
Shepard stares at the module uncertainly. Then, with conviction she straightens, and presses the button to fire.
A shockwave emanates from the Crucible, emitting a high pitched whine that shatters the signal receptors on each Reaper as it passes outward. They all come to stop. The Mass Effect relay is activated, slingling the shockwave to the next system in the relay, and the next. All across the galaxy the fighting ceases. The organics hold their fire with bated breath.
One Reaper takes the intiative and charges up its beam to resume the attack. Heart sinking, Shepard gets ready to input the original targeting data. Then, another Reaper turns on its nose to tackle the agitator with its squid-like arms. All around is suddenly chaos, Reaper against Reaper. Some fly away from the battle entirely, disappearing into deep space.
With the assistance of some turned Reapers, the fractured enemy troops are driven out of each system in turn. The fight finally over, Shepard collapses onto the module, exhuasted. A rueful smile is on her face. Against all odd, they did it. Earth is saved. The galaxy is saved.
Not all of the Reapers stay to help rebuild, but some of them do, offering up their vast stores of technological insight and exchanging cultural perspectives and histories with the peoples of the galaxy.
Javik was heavily wounded, surviving only long enough to thank Shepard for the vindication of her race before he passes on. The remaining crew lay him to rest as a last show of solidarity before going their separate ways. Liara is at home archiving the influx of information and acting as something of a delegate to the asari with the Reapers residing on Thessia. Wrex returns to Tuchanka to lead the newly united Krogan people into a new era alongside Eve. Kaidan takes over as acting captain of the Normandy, and takes Joker along as part of the package, since he is inseperable from the ship and from EDI. James starts his N7 training. He says it won't be long before he rejoins the crew of the Normandy as a lieutenant.
Shepard travels to Rannoch with Tali to help her build her house. The quarian Admiral looks forward to a future of cooperation and peace with the quarian's long time enemies the Geth, and to the revitalization of her home planet and her people.
Garrus meets Shepard on a remote beach in the Pacific. They sit together on a towel, a warm breeze blowing through Shepard's hair, and nurse a couple of drinks. The wreck of a Reaper sticks out jarringly against the flat horizon.
"So why'd you do it," Garrus asks.
"Hmm?" Shepard responds, tilting her head up to look at him.
"Free the Reapers? How did you know they wouldn't just keep attacking? Or that Harbinger wasn't tricking you?" Garrus elaborates.
Shepard sighs. "I didn't. But, what were we fighting for if not the right of every living thing to choose its own destiny?"
Garrus studies her for a moment, the nods, turning toward the ocean.
"It worked out," he says.
"It did," she replies.
"We saved the galaxy," he continues.
"We did," Shepard replies.
-Ending Divergence: Garrus Romance-
Garrus turns back to face Shepard. "I love you," he says softly.
Shepard takes his face in her hands and presses their foreheads together, saying, "I love you too." She kisses him, and slides her head down to his shoulder. Garrus snakes his arm around her waist and pulls her closer.
"I'm never leaving you behind again," Shepard vows, entwining their hands together.
"And I'm not letting you go ever again," Garrus says, squeezingher waist. "You're stuck with me from now on. I'm not letting you out of my sight."
Shepard gives him a quick kiss on his should. They sit contentedly together for a while, watching the waves roll in and out. "...Were you serious about adopting a krogan?" she asks eventually, a not of teasing in her voice.
Garrus tries to contain his laugh, but fails, and his honest delight is infectious. Shepard giggles, then laughs, and he punches her in the arm.
"Raising krogans is best left to the krogans," he says finally, breathless.
"Mm-hm," Shepard agrees, a smile on her face. "But..." she continues, hesitantly, "There are a lot of human and turian orphans out there now. They could use a home."
"Do you... mean it?" Garrus asks in awed surprise.
"Yes," Shepard says, a little sheepishly. "Maybe not right away, but- I want to marry you, Garrus. I want to have a family with you-"
Garrus tackles Shepard into the sand before she has a chance to finish.